Third Sunday of Easter
JN 21:1-19
May 5, 2019

To me, “breakfast” is another word for three cups of strong, black coffee. Unless, of course, there happens to be a cinnamon roll sale at the parish. This week however, I started to rethink my approach to the first meal of the day, as I read about a study recently published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

As I understand it, all other health issues taken into consideration, people who skip breakfast routinely, have an 87% higher risk of cardiovascular mortality compared with people who have breakfast every day. The article made me think about going out and buying a box of oatmeal. But of course I haven’t done that yet, and at the moment am enjoying my third cup of strong, black coffee as I prepare to begin the day.

This week’s Gospel is as complicated as it is lengthy. There is so much here to reflect on, learn from, and pray about that it is hard to know where to begin. An even greater challenge comes with the effort to harmonize the Gospel with the other two Readings. So just possibly, the best place to begin is with the first meal of the day.

The fact that this post- Easter encounter with the Risen Christ occurred at breakfast, Jesus Himself the “breakfast cook”, invites us to consider the connection between proper nourishment of the body as well as the spirit. In other words, even as our bodies must be properly and frequently fed if we are to thrive, so too our spirits. If skipping a bowl of oatmeal before rushing into a busy day results in an 87% higher risk of cardiovascular mortality; consider the consequences of missing Morning Prayer. Consider as well, the dire consequences of failing to participate in Eucharist “routinely.”

Tragically, this is what is happening.

The article about the importance of a healthy diet caused me some concern about my own eating habits. But I read another article this past week that made be very sad. The article reported on MLive, spoke to the worship habits of Catholics in Michigan. For example, in our Diocese of Saginaw, it is reported that since 2000 there has been a 64% decrease in Baptisms, as well as First Communions and celebrations of Christian Marriage. There were 77% fewer Confirmations. Even “church funerals” saw a decline over this period, down by 20%. There might well be a valid challenge to these numbers, but anyone who is committed to the Sacramental Life of our Church, by simply looking around on a Sunday morning, is aware of a dramatic downward trend.

We live in a time when many people are spiritually malnourished. They are either “skipping” the sacraments altogether, or are “routinely” absent; almost casual about their relationship with Christ, in the Church. Forgoing Eucharist, many are choosing to feed on things that offer temporary satisfaction through empty spiritual calories. Just as there are isles full of unhealthy options in the grocery store, today’s culture offers countless ways satisfying spiritual hunger that do not support true spiritual health. The spiritual mortality rate is alarming.

All of this makes Jesus’s breakfast meeting with the Apostles all that much more relevant, even critical to our times. There is nothing complicated about The Lord’s directive to Peter. IF YOU LOVE ME THEN FEED MY LAMBS. IF YOU REALLY LOVE ME…. FEED MY SHEEP. IF YOU LOVE ME THEN GO OUT AND NOURISH MY PEOPLE.

How do we reverse the trends that threatens the spiritual lives of so many? Invite them to breakfast…AFTER MASS! Host a dinner party…FOLLOWING EUCHARIST. And begin small. Make it a “family affair” because there aren’t many families who can boast that they haven’t made a substantial contribution to the downward trends.

Today’s Gospel is a call to evangelize. Moreover, Jesus wasn’t speaking just to Peter…or to the Apostles…or to priests and nuns and DREs and Youth Ministers. The Lord was speaking to ALL of the Baptized, in every generation. The message is crystal clear. IF YOU LOVE THE LORD THEN FEED HIS FLOCK.